Visualization of painful experiences believed to trigger the activation of affective and emotional brain regions in subjects with low back pain

Academic Article


  • In the management of clinical low back pain (LBP), actual damage to lower back areas such as muscles, intervertebral discs etc. are normally targeted for therapy. However, LBP may involve not only sensory pain, but also underlying affective pain which may also play an important role overall in painful events. Therefore we hypothesized that visualization of a painful event may trigger painful memories, thus provoking the affective dimension of pain. The present study investigated neural correlates of affect processing in subjects with LBP (n = 11) and subjects without LBP (n = 11) through the use of virtual LBP stimuli. Whole brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed for all subjects while they were shown a picture of a man carrying luggage in a half-crouching position. All subjects with LBP reported experiencing discomfort and 7 LBP subjects reported experiencing pain. In contrast to subjects without LBP, subjects with LBP displayed activation of the cortical area related to pain and emotions: the insula, supplementary motor area, premotor area, thalamus, pulvinar, posterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, fusiform, gyrus, and cerebellum. These results suggest that the virtual LBP stimuli caused memory retrieval of unpleasant experiences and therefore may be associated with prolonged chronic LBP conditions. © 2011 Shimo et al.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • PLoS ONE  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 22730240
  • Author List

  • Shimo K; Ueno T; Younger J; Nishihara M; Inoue S; Ikemoto T; Taniguchi S; Ushida T
  • Volume

  • 6
  • Issue

  • 11